(Note from Jen: I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU!! Thank you to Cora for introducing us to a family favorite all the way from Germany!)
Until Halloween arrived on our shores some fifteen years ago, Germans knew only two uses for pumpkins: Pumpkin bread, which is quite different from the US version, and pickled pumpkin.
Sweet and sour pickled pumpkin is something of a fall and winter staple in Germany. It’s a great way to use up pumpkin – whether grown in the garden or bought at a farmer’s market or grocery store – it has a long shelf life and makes for a quick and easy dessert, because all you have to do is open a jar. You can even buy jars of pickled pumpkin at most grocery stores, though pickling your own is more fun and cheaper, too.
There are dozens of recipes for pickled pumpkin. My personal favourite – and the one I still use every year – is a family recipe that I got from my Aunt Gisela. No idea where she got it from. I’d like to say that it’s a pre-war recipe from East Prussia, but it could just as well be a clipping from a 1970s women’s magazine. But whatever the origin, it’s a great recipe. I like it, because it tastes amazing and uses less vinegar than most recipes for pickled pumpkin. Too much vinegar tends to give me mouth ulcers, so it’s perfect for me.
- A large pot. I use a pressure cooker without the lid.
- 6 to 8 cleaned and sterilized jars. You can use screwtop pickling jars, but old jam and pickle jars do just as well.
- A large knife and a chopping board
- A kitchen towel
- 1 large pumpkin
- 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of sugar
- 1 litre (0.26 gallons) of hard apple cider. I use German Äbbelwoi, but British or Irish cider will do just as well. If you prefer your pumpkin pickle without alcohol – though the alcohol evaporates during cooking anyway – you can also use apple juice or non-alcoholic cider.
- 250 ml (0.5 pint) of cider vinegar
- 2 cups of water
- 2 organic lemons with untreated peel
- 2 sticks of cinnamon, broken into pieces
- 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped ginger
- 2 pieces of star anise
- 1 teaspoon of cloves
- Thoroughly clean the jars and lids and sterilise them either in boiling water or by putting them in the dishwasher, microwave or oven. You can find more information about how to sterilise pickling jars here.
- Chop the flesh of your pumpkin into small cubes. Remove the peel and the seeds, which can be used for other projects.
- Chop the ginger and cut the lemon into slices. Ideally, you should keep the lemon peel, but if you cannot find lemons with untreated peel, cut it off.
- Put the sugar, cider, vinegar, ginger and other spices into a large pot – I use a pressure cooker without the lid – and bring to a boil, until the sugar has dissolved. And yes, it is a lot of sugar, but the recipe needs it. Add water, if you need more liquid.
- Reduce the heat and add the chopped up pumpkin to the pickling liquid. Cook it until the pumpkin cubes become translucent, but not so long that they start to fall apart. Add the lemon slices shortly before the pumpkin has finished cooking.
- Place some cleaned and sterilised jars onto a kitchen towel and fill the pumpkin into the jars. A large pumpkin is usually enough for 6 to 8 jars. Also make sure that every jar gets at least one lemon slice and ginger, also some cloves and a piece of cinnamon stick – unless you want to filter the spices out. Distribute the remaining liquid among the jars to fill them up and screw the lids on tight. If you have liquid left over, keep it for other projects.
- The pickled pumpkin keeps for several months. The taste improves over time and you should wait at least two weeks before opening the first jar. A jar of home-pickled pumpkin also makes a great gift.
Cora Buhlert was born and bred in Bremen, North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD.
Cora has been writing since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of other stories in multiple genres. When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.
Visit her on the web at www.corabuhlert.com or follow her on Twitter under @CoraBuhlert.